Aroostook County homeschoolers hold first formal dance

LITTLETON, Maine — It was a night of sparkling lights, glittering dresses, sequin-dripping cowgirl hats and new experiences for about 35 Aroostook County homeschoolers at the Southern Aroostook Agricultural Museum on Friday. 

The formal winter dinner dance, the first for this group of homeschoolers, was a success, said the event’s organizer, Kimberly Coker.

“This is something they chose,” said Coker, a member of the informal Houlton Homeschoolers Group. “We didn’t really know what to expect.”

Homeschooled students often watch friends attend formal events like homecoming, prom and winter formals and many of the teens in the Aroostook County group wanted those same experiences, said parent Kelly Schwalbert.

“It is a milestone event they can look back on,” she said. “Milestone experiences are important for homeschoolers because they help to develop social skills and confidence. Dancing, for example, requires social skills such as communication, cooperation, and respect.”

The formal evening started long before Friday night with gown shopping and planning, including learning the Flashdance line dance during the group’s weekly gym classes, Schwalbert said Friday night. 

At the Houlton Homeschooler’s first formal winter dance, Hope Nickerson, 14, of New Limerick and Sierra Spelta, 13, of Linneus, take a short break from dancing on Friday night at the Southern Aroostook County Agricultural Museum in Littleton.  (Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli | Houlton Pioneer Times)

The Maine Department of Education requires physical fitness classes in addition to academic requirements for homeschooled students, and the Houlton group holds weekly gym classes at Oakfield Community Center, she said, adding that in nice weather as many as 70 homeschoolers participate. 

Additionally, as a group, they take field trips to museums and many of the students participate in extracurricular sporting events. 

The homeschool group draws students from as far south as Benedicta and as far north as Portage Lake. The winter formal is just one more activity designed to enrich student experiences, she said.  

Hannah Valiant, 12, Linneus (left) and Jordyn Bouvier, 13, Houlton, said they were having fun at Friday’s Houlton Homeschool Group formal winter dance at the Southern Aroostook County Agricultural Museum in Littleton. (Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli | Houlton Pioneer Times)

For Friday’s formal event, parents cooked a dinner of chicken, roasted potatoes with gravy, salad, applesauce and desserts. They served the students, and a parent was also the deejay with student-selected music, Schwalbert said.  

“Tim Humphrey set up the sound for us,” she said, adding that the Agricultural Museum has been helpful for several student events. 

As the night progressed and students became more comfortable, there were several line and circle dances, some students volleyed balloons back and forth and a few couples danced with newfound partners. 

The common response to “Are you having fun?” was an animated “Yes.”